ANOTHER LONG-WINDED BLOG TO COMM VINYL LISTENING ORGY!
Gee, I know mentioning this will make me look like a sentimental old turd especially to all of you decadent geeks out there in real world land, but I'm so in love with my relatively new turntable to the point where I've spent a good portion of the past few months huddled in that special corner of the basement going through my not-that-humongous (but humongous enough to family and friends) stacks o' vinyl goodies listening to a lotta acquisitions both old and new just like I have been doing ever since being allowed near one of those things! Thus this latest in hopefully a long line of vinyl listening orgies that I know will continue to enthrall most of you dedicated BLOG TO COMM followers out there...now as a word of warning let me tell you off the bat that many of these items have been reviewed before in the pages of my own doomed to obscurity fanzine but like it's been so long since I've last spun 'em that it's almost like I'm givin 'em an all-new playing so don't go comparin' what I mighta written about 'em 15/20 years back with my current opinions! In fact I'm not gonna comb through teetering stacks of unsold wares to glom my original views on these things even at the risk of sounding like a critical Benedict Arnold! Lord knows we've had enough of 'em o'er the years, but as the long-forgotten Torky Koenigs once said people have the right to change their minds, and who am I to argue with another reminder of just how lame the entire late-eighties/early-nineties critical fan base was and shall remain! So, on with the blow...
ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO LIVE 2-LP set (Affinity England)
When I first spun these elusive discs I was knocked out to the point where I actually believed in my brain of brains that I had at last uncovered the ultimate in Art Ensemble recordings which have (no contest!) toppled the entire backlog of AACM-related tuneage heard by my precious ears to the point where I proudly planned to say in no uncertain terms that this ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO LIVE (Affinity) twofer is the ONLY Art Ensemble you'll need! The second time...well, it was merely "very good" so I don't know if it was me or the Cajun rice and beans I had for dinner. Whatever, this is one I had been waiting to hear for a very long time in classic Fatty Arbuckle-speak...a rarity that is allegedly from the BYG catalog although one online source claims that it was released only in Japan and I guess it has been reissued on one of those Italian labels handling the BYG backlog, albeit in the same block lettering Affinity sleeve in which it originally was released back inna early-eighties! Confused? Sure, but you can't be as confused as the folks at Forced Exposure who continually have this item up for sale on their website even though I've ordered it umpteen times only to find that it's "out of stock," as if it was ever "in stock" to begin with.
But whadevva, ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO LIVE is yet another worthy to track down if you claim to be part and parcel to the whole early AEC sway and swerve that seemed to present the group at its best long before they became "thee" hipster measuring stick as to just how "far out" jazz could get. Disc one's nothing but one extended rave entitled "Oh Strange," a Joseph Jarman/Lester Bowie composition that reminds me a lot of "People in Sorrow" the way it slow burns a relatively soft-yet-intense underpinning to the solos of Jarman and Bowie while rec #2 "Bon Voyage" (Bowie) is a fantastic free play from the group performing over a bed of some of the best free drumming I've heard in a long time which leads me to believe what others do that this 'un doesn't originate from the same October 5, 1969 gig as the first elpee but from a later gig when Don Moye joined the group! Whaddeva, it's a wild trip through the nastier side of the even newer thing esp. when Malachi Favors starts plucking away on his zither like a kid inna toy shop and Fontella Bass contributes some fine sing/screaming that sounds like what Grace Slick thought she sounded like and Yoko Ono shoulda when she was mixing her rock and roll with the avant garde! One to keep both peepers opened for lest you settle back into the shocking complacency of Chick Corea!
***Anthony Braxton-NEW YORK, FALL 1974 LP (Arista)
This is the one that got Anthony Braxton outta the free jazz ghetto and onto a major label, an upstart young budding major mind you but one that was more'n anxious to take chances on wild mavericks like Braxton and Patti Smith while raking in the long green with Barry Manilow and the Bay City Rollers. But then again, this was during that strange harmonic convergence'r whaddeva it was that made the mid-seventies such a fascinating place to live at the time (see previous post), an era where things were still so open and free that you could go into any record shop and pick up Amon Duul and Portsmouth Sinfonia albums with little effort, and I'm not even talking the import section either!
Oddly enough, on NEW YORK, FALL 1974 Braxton's not exactly the out-there abstractionist one might have expected from his earlier offerings, but the man does harken way back to the early-sixties avant garde of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy for inspiration and I guess that was good enough for most of the jazz audience still reeling from some of the sounds that had been coming outta the jazz world for the past few years. Even with the sax quartet and duo with synthesizer player Richard Teitelbaum Braxton avoids the outer realms that are most associated with the likes of the AACM and hey, one can easily enough hear how (within a good six months) this rising star could have sessioned with his longtime hero Dave Brubeck on the latter's own foray into avantdom for Atlantic. But still, I can hear a slight hint of, I dunno, that very same pomposity? which made Richard Meltzer call Braxton the new Brubeck for late-seventies hipster college kids. Can you???
***The Nephews-BEATHAVEN 10-inch LP/EP (Flapping Jet)
While thumbing through a stack of 10-inch discs looking for the spiffy Bon Vivants mini-album (well, it was either that or my copy of Ravel's BOLERO), I chanced upon this forgotten platter that I can't recall if I liked or loathed (remember, I'm not checking on past reviews just so I can cover my hindquarters!). Throwing all caution to the wind I decided to give these Nephews yet another spin not only because the record looked so tasty with its typically alterno-nineties graphics and all, but because the label that put this out was named after an Electric Eels song and since I'm "getting back into" the Eels after a good few years of hibernating could the godz be dropping any heftier hints my way???
Hey, turns out that despite all of the easily identifiable underground reference points and typically moderne updating that usually dooms such offerings to the instant sell pile these Nephews were pretty snat after all! Nothing awe-inspiring or secret-of-life revealing bere and they certainly ain't the Electric Eels let alone the entire seventies Cleveland underground scene, but (fortunately) the Nephews don't take their garage license to the utter depths of kitsch corn. Covers of Ut, Godz and Berry intermingle with the two-track-sounding original compositions of one Tim Ellison, whom I assume was the leader of this groupage if only because he wrote the original numbers here and he's a famed rock critic, the closest anyone'll come to Richard Meltzer outside of Byron Coley these days (I'm tempted to type "...the closest anyone'll come to Richard Meltzer outside of Byron Coley and ME" but I won't out of false modesty). I'm trying to pick out which one he is on the back cover, but I dunno if he will ever let on as to who's who. After all, they all look kinda skateboardy, if you know what I mean.
***Sproton Layer-"Lost Behind Words"/"Space Red", "Jam From Outer Space" EP (New Alliance)
Speaking of Ellison, I remember he was really gung ho on this late-sixties Ann Arbor aggregate which featured not only the Miller Brothers (future Destroy All Monsters [yay!] and Mission of Burma [zzzzzzz!]) but trumpeter Harold Kirchen, who happened to be the brother of Seventh Seal/Commander Cody guitarist Bill making Sproton Layer perhaps one of the truly forgotten nth-ranking bands on the Detroit area scene at the time. Come to think of it I also was hot on Sproton Layer around the time (1991) not only their long-unreleased "concept" album WITH MAGNETIC FIELDS DISRUPTED finally came out but this li'l clear-vinyl gem was released to an unsuspecing/uncaring public. In fact, I gotta admit to you thriving blogreaders out there that I prefer this seven-inch slab to the actual album mainly because it captures the late-sixties garage band anger a lot better'n any of us might've thought, complete with a Detroit attitude and typical weirdness that could jumble and jive the Stooges and Pink Floyd influences with seeming ease and still not look stupid! I wish New Alliance would've stuck these tracks onto the CD version of the album, and come to think of it I wouldn't mind hearing all the sessions these tracks came from in their entirety which might be a possibility considering how well established the Miller Brothers are in light of their underground credo, eh? Until then, we can just spin this 'un over and over the same way I play that Amon Duul live '68 mp3 fragment that's goin' 'round trying to imagine what it's like en toto.
***Copernicus-"Pink Lips"/"Quasimodo" single (Smalkowski)
Here's the official debut Copernicus single mentioned in my Turner and Kirwan of Wexford review a week or so back. It's a plain item, no pic sleeve or anything and the label it's on happens to also be the guy's real last name if you can beat that! Although side two turns up on his stellar NOTHING EXISTS disc you'll also want it for "Pink Lips" which has Copernicus swearin' all over the place while the rest of the Major Thinkers start riffin' the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night." One disturbing image from this side has Our Hero threatening to kiss none other'n then prez Jimmy Carter on his big puffy lips! Now that image is enough to make me wanna toss more'n a few cookies into the poreclain confessional!
***The Wailers-OUT OF OUR TREE (Etiquette)
Remember when Park Avenue Records (then home to the Wipers) outta Seattle was sellin' these cheapo knockoffs of classic Northwest punk rock albums in the early-eighties? Besides this notable reissue from Northwest KINGS the Wailers, Park Avenue was also selling the first two Sonics Lps (also on Etiquette) and the Paul Revere and the Raiders Sande album and for pretty hefty pennies as well! And to tell you the truth back in '80 I was lucky if I could scratch together enough copper to buy an import single let alone an entire album of this historical magnitude that was going for a whopping $10.99 per...but I managed to latch onto 'em all and relished every second of those great sixties slabs even if they did sound like they were recorded from "dubious" sources and were way overpriced t'boot. Of course within a few years alla this stuff was reissued legally (I think) and from master tapes as well making all of those early-eighties acquisitions obsolete, but I still cherished these albums to the utmost if just for the warm 'n toasty meaning behind 'em all.
This 'un's the classic mid-sixties Wailers offering that Norton wouldn't release in its entirety mainly because they thought some of the slower cuts like "Unchained Melody" and "Summertime" blew chunks royally. (They eventually released the more- pumped up portion of OUT OF OUR TREE along with tracks from the group's nationally-distributed offering OUTBURST on United Artists to make an all-new, and come to think of it all-rocking album more in tune with Norton's entire reason for being.) Well, I can see how some hot-to-rock label like Norton'd think that those slow tunes were absolute snoozers, but I like OUT OF OUR TREE in its entirety anyway, even if the slow stuff can get a bit obtrusive at times. The rest of the disc from their Sonics-sounding period (as the Bomp mailorder catalog once put it) has the Wailers sounding a lot closer to Gerry Roslie and the crew than Roslie and crew sounded like the Wailers, and besides romping into the familiar r&b territory that had been part and parcel of the Wailers sound since '58 be thankful that OUT OF OUR TREE has more of those patented Northwest wails and yelps on such screamers as the title track, "Baby Don't Do It" and of course the all-out punk yelper "Hang Up," a song I can relate to because way too many people think """""I""""" have one! Can you believe that?
The softer stuff that turned off the likes of Billy Miller is OK as well...actually I think "Hang on Sloopy" is a bit of instant douse and "Unchained Melody" sounds about as chained as it could get, but their version of "Summertime" is almost as good as Big Brother and the Holding Company's and that's getting pretty good! And of course what would this review be without a mention of their Beatles cover, "I'm Down" which is perhaps one of the better takes of the Fab Foes as anything to come outta the mid-sixties! Low-Fi or not, OUT OF OUR TREE is a cool winner no matter how you slice it!
***BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY (Mainstream)
Speaking of Big Brother, I realized that I haven't been listening to enough San Francisco rock as of late which prompted me to drag not only this 'un but the following item outta the mothballs. It's the consensus of most that this Mainstream debut really ain't the group's most "representative" outing but I like it even with the occasional flubs here and there (most notably "Easy Rider" which proved that James Gurley, although a fantastic guitarist, maybe shoulda kept his trap shut!). True this can't come close to such Big Brother highpoints as "Oh Sweet Mary" offa the much-improved CHEAP THRILLS but it sure has enough of its skewered Gurley guitar moments like the incredible "Light is Faster Than Sound," a free-screeching ode to amphetamine that sounds positively dull in comparison on all of the live bootlegs I've heard. The rest of BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY is upbeat enough from the dazed proto-punk of "Intruder" to the sweet fifties throwback "Call on Me" while the relatively light, everyday sorta "clean" sound of the thing holds up well even four decades after the fact. And true, Janis always kinda irritated me with her downhome farmgirl gone acid image, but in the company of Big Brother you don't mind that these guys're tied in the dye hippies one bit because the whole thing is so rock & roll to the point where Gurley's indian headress ain't even offensive like it should be!
***MOBY GRAPE (CBS South Africa)
Here's a disc I got a long time back from this Texas oriented record dealer by the name of Darren Mencken. Mencken was originally from South Africa and I guess he brought a lotta records from down that way up this way when he made the trek, because back when we were doin' business I not only got hold of this South African issue of the class act debut Moby Grape disc but the equally legendary MOBY GRAPE '69 which believe-it-or-not was issued on Columbia subsidiary Date down Johannesburg way! I still have yet to dig that 'un out but I found this easily enough and yeah, it's just as good as I remembered not only with the great harmonies (which retain a sort of punk arrogance unlike those of Crosby Stills and Whatever's with the Grateful Dead coming a close second) but with the stellar multa-lead guitars and high-energy Southern Californian post-folk rock which was still firmly rooted in mid-sixties fun and games unlike the processed material most of Grape's intellectual competition was beginning to work up. It's too bad that these guys hadda let their libidos get in the way of their potential successes and Skip Spence hadda flip out into oblivion because ya know Moby Grape not only had the big label push but the uncontested talent to have made San Francisco a little more'n the hackfest market it eventually turned out to be.
***Electrified Fukuko-GAMBLE '86 12-inch EP (Tokyo Telegraph, Japan)
Finally on today's schedule's this rarity that came out of the Japanese underground back inna mid-to-late eighties (not exactly a boon time for great soundscapading) featuring yet anudder one-a them all-gal groups that seemed to be the rage back then, or at least it would seem that way considering how alla them boneheaded critics were always on the search for something superficial to write about while ignoring all of the really innovative and exciting things that were happening right under their very nostrils. Anyhoo, this group is probably best known because it had Ikue Mori on drums, she once being a member of the infamous no wave group DNA back inna eighties and after that the drumstress for the less-known yet still revered by some Thick Pigeon. Also in the group is Emiko Mogi on guitar, another remnant of the olden days of Japanese underground and confidante of none other'n Reck of Friction fame, while some gal by the name on Non, past resume unknown, takes care of the bass playing as well as some rather girly-girlish vocals. It all sounds a lot like something you would have expected from the Japanese scene at the time, and given how Reck himself is thanked on the back cover you can imagine just how deep the underground roots intertwine. Actually it's kinda like Ut only more rock & rolling, with a fashion-conscious Japanese gal swivel to it 'stead of New York artsyness that makes it all the more tastier. I dunno (or care) what you think, but I always believed that Mori was a great drummer, sort of a naturally talented amateur perhaps, but another Maureen Tucker nonetheless who needed to find a good American suburban garage band to be in 'stead of wallow in that soul-less downtown art mire. On this disc she does show her true potential as a percussionist par (inspired amateur) excellence and playing in a rock & roll setting without any of the pretension that one might find in the New York "art" (yech!) world. Too bad she hadda get into electronic improvised music that always seemed like the best substitute for Sominex around!